The team penning competition was nearly over. This event fascinated her because it seemed the teams with the best times were the most experienced, unlike most of the rodeo events where youth had an edge.
The two men and one woman sorting the cattle were in their late fifties.
They’d separated the three calves wearing the number four into the pens faster than the next closest team by a good fifteen seconds.
So did that mean that Colby could compete in rodeo for another twenty years? Wouldn’t he get tired of it? Or was this a lifelong obsession like other sports?
Channing bought a couple bottles of water. Rummaging in her bag for her notebook, her cell phone rang. She answered it absentmindedly without checking the caller ID. “Hello?”
“Channing? Is that you?”
Her stomach dropped. “Who else would it be, Mom?”
“You don’t need to be snippy.”
“Sorry.” She inhaled slowly. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. And you?”
“Just great.” Come on. Get to it. The only good thing about her mother’s phone calls was that she didn’t drag them out with inane chitchat.
“That’s good. Well, the reason I called is because I’ve received some interesting news.” Pause. “Your friend Melinda Baxter? She and her delightful fiancé Robert ran off to Aruba and were married last weekend.
Isn’t that marvelous?”
“Splendid,” she said sweetly.
“I tell you, Melinda’s mother was shocked as they’d already booked the cathedral months ago. Anyway, since Melinda and Robert skipped the formal wedding ceremony, they’ve rented the Gregory Art Museum and are hosting an enormous reception next weekend. Naturally, I assured Melinda you’d be in attendance.”
Channing seethed. She was twenty-five years old. Her mother had no right to speak for her. But it was nothing new in her life, which was the biggest reason why she’d run away from that life. She wondered if she’d ever be able to return to it.
“You will be finished with this little…rebellion of yours by then, won’t you?”
When she said rebellion it sounded quaint, less ominous than run away with the rodeo. “Maybe. We’ll see.”
“I certainly hope even if you don’t return to help your friend celebrate the beginning of her new life, that you will be back here in time to prepare for your move to—”
“I said we’ll see.”
Another disapproving pause. “Channing, your father went to a lot of trouble to secure the teaching position for you at Palmer. You do realize how it would look if you—”
“Yes, Mother, I’m aware of how it would look. And God knows I would never do anything to besmirch the almighty Kinkaid name.”
Her mother sniffed. “Not only do I not like your tone, you are not acting at all like the responsible child I raised. I don’t understand what has happened to you.”
I grew up, wised up, and realized how screwed up everything is in your little world and how I don’t want any part of it.
A cloud of dust heavily laced with the scent of horseshit wafted past.
It amazed her how rapidly the pungent aroma had become familiar and calmed her. Not that she could share that tidbit with her mother.
Jacqueline Moore Kinkaid would be appalled.
“Look, I don’t want to fight with you, Mother. When you talk to Melinda give her my best.”
“And I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.”
Channing clicked the phone shut. Nothing had changed. She didn’t fit in with her parent’s social circle. Would she ever find a place where she belonged? Her gaze swept the ranch families and rodeo enthusiasts clogging the aisles and racing for the grandstand. As much as she hoped for it, she didn’t really fit here, either.
Her cell phone rang again. This time she checked the caller ID. She smiled. Colby. “Hello?”
“Hey, shug, I just wanted to make sure you got the ticket and you know where you’re supposed to be sittin’ today.”
“I’m here on the backside of the arena. I just got off the phone with my mother so I’m contemplating grabbing a beer or ten before I sit down.”
He laughed and the sound warmed that cold spot within her. “Must be the day. My mom called earlier, too.”
“Bet your conversation went better than mine.”
“Probably. Although I doubt you got grilled on your injuries. How your horse was handlin’ the travelin’. If you were eatin’ right. If you were drinkin’ too much. And if you were wearin’ clean underwear.”
“Are you really okay, darlin’? She didn’t say nothin’ to upset you?”
How had he picked up on that so fast? “I’m fine. I’m ready to rodeo.
Good luck, cowboy. I’ll be cheering you on.”
“You have no idea how glad I am to hear that. I probably won’t get much of a break, so I’ll see you after that ninety-point ride.”
Channing was smiling as she hung up.
Colby squeaked by in the tie-down roping competition with a top-five finish. As did Trevor. Edgard got shut out.
While other events were held and Colby and Trevor and Edgard weren’t competing, Channing jotted observations in her notebook. It was a good excuse not to have to talk to people. Again, she had a sudden burst of shyness.
The other wives and girlfriends looked at her a little strangely, but so far none had ventured over and introduced themselves. And she worried it’d smack of desperation if she made the first move. It wasn’t like she hadn’t suffered enough rejection in her life.
Colby managed to cover his bronc for a seventy-seven-point ride. The rest of the contestants didn’t fare so well, which left Colby at the top of the standings and a guaranteed spot in the second round.
Likewise Trevor and Edgard had a good run and landed in the top five, also guaranteeing them a return trip the following day. Cash and Brian wound up in first place in the team roping.
The food in the concession stand was pure grease and Channing wished she’d packed a healthy lunch. Her stomach rumbled loudly.
A pigtailed girl of about four looked up from beneath the brim of her pink cowgirl hat. “Your tummy sounded like a bear growling.”
“Well, maybe that’s because I’m as hungry as a bear.”
The girl considered her, sidled closer and then dug in her package of animal crackers, slyly passing over a circus bear. “Ya’are what you eat.”